As Britain swelters in temperatures touching 30 degrees, keeping cool, calm and collected behind the wheel can be a challenge.
Glare from strong sunlight, seasonal allergies, queuing holiday traffic and slow-moving farm vehicles are just some of the frustrations motorists must contend with.
But by taking these simple, practical steps before setting out, drivers – and their passengers – can stay safe and comfortable in the summer months.
Keep your car cool
If your car is like an oven inside, open the doors and windows to let out some of the heat. With the windows shut, switch on the air conditioning before you drive off. If you can, park in the shade. To save fuel, turn off the air con once the car has cooled down and remember to keep windows closed while the air con is running.
Check your tyres
Extreme heat can cause tyre blow outs and punctures, especially if tyres are already damaged or under inflated. Check your tyres’ condition and make sure that air pressure is maintained at the levels recommended by the car’s manufacturer.
Don’t be dazzled
Being dazzled by the sun’s glare can lead to accidents. Wear sunglasses or keep a pair handy in the glove box – and use your overhead sun visors to shield your eyes from bright sunlight. Clean the car windows regularly and replace worn windscreen wipers.
To keep well you must stay hydrated during warm weather, so don’t leave home without plenty of water for you and your passengers. You don’t want to be stuck in a long traffic queue for hours without anything to drink.
Top up your car’s fluids
Keep your car’s fluids topped up too. Car engines can overheat in warm weather so check coolant levels regularly. Windscreens also get very grimy during hot, dry spells, so make sure you top up your screen wash.
Allow for hayfever
High pollen counts can make summer a misery for people with hayfever and other seasonal allergies. If you’re among the millions of sufferers, the NHS recommends wearing wrap around sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes and buying a pollen filter for your car’s air vents. Medication can alleviate symptoms but make sure you take the non-drowsy versions before getting behind the wheel.
Dress for comfort
Try and stay cool by wearing loose, comfortable clothing in natural fabrics. Pay attention to footwear too, flip flops are fine for the beach but not great for driving in. They can make it tricky to operate the car’s controls safely, and worse still, can get wedged under the pedals. Carry a spare pair of shoes suitable for driving.
Watch out for melting road surfaces
Temperatures in the high 20s can cause the tarmac on roads to melt. Slow down, keep your distance from the car in front and take extra care when braking on hot surfaces. Watch out too for loose chippings as they can cause damage to windscreens, headlamps and paintwork so proceed with caution.
Don’t leave pets in hot cars
Never leave a pet in a car in hot weather – even if you’ve left the windows open, have parked in the shade and don’t intend to be very long.
It might not feel that warm outside, but temperatures in cars can rise rapidly. If pets get too hot and cannot lower their body temperature, they can develop heatstroke which can be fatal.
Take care on rural roads
Driving on narrow country lanes and rural roads can be particularly hazardous during the summer months. As well as other cars you are also likely to come across walkers, horse riders, cyclists, motorbikes, caravans and agricultural vehicles.
Check your mirrors regularly and if necessary be prepared to pull in and let others pass.
To keep all road users safe, give slow-moving vehicles such as tractors – which may be longer than you realise – plenty of room and take extra care when overtaking.
Watch out for “road racers”
There is nothing like the thrill of the open road on a warm summer’s day or evening. But when you’ve got your shades on, top down and your favourite music blasting, it can be tempting to go a bit too fast.
Look out for speeding motorists who are enjoying the weather and may not be concentrating as much as they should be. Also, parents with fractious children, or drivers who are feeling tired and uncomfortable may also be easily distracted when driving.
Leave the car at home
If you’re going to a barbecue, party or festival and intend on having a drink, leave the car at home. Get a lift, book a cab or take public transport. Remember too that alcohol takes hours to leave your system. If you have been drinking all weekend you probably won’t be fit to drive the next day.
Wherever you go this summer, whether it’s to the airport, the beach or somewhere local remember these tips and have a safe journey!